Magic Bibliography: Scholarly Research into Theatrical Magic

Magic bibliographyThis bibliography provides a comprehensive overview of academic and professional literature on theatrical magic.

Researchers have asked questions about theatrical magic from diverse disciplines, from dentistry and linguistics to management and gender studies. The criteria for inclusion in this magic bibliography are:

  • Published in an accepted academic or professional publication.
  • Publications that discuss any aspect of theatrical magic (conjuring).
  • Publications that use magic as a metaphor to understand science.
  • Excludes normative discourse on how to perform magic, such as specific explanations of tricks and rules of performance.

This bibliography uses eighteen categories to classify conjuring literature listed in alphabetical order. For a systematic review of the relationship between the sciences and magic, refer to my essay on the bidirectional relationship between science and magic.

Business Studies

The literature in the genre discusses using magic as a metaphor to teach professionals about managing a business. These researchers ask themselves how magic tricks can be used to better understand management and marketing.


In dentistry, magic tricks can be used to put young patients at ease. Performing a magic trick for children reduces the time it takes them to get them to sit in the dreaded chair and improves the quality of their care.


Teachers can use magic tricks to help their students understand abstract concepts of mathematics and physics as many tricks are based on these sciences. Performing magic stimulates the curiosity of students and motivates them to find out the principles of science that were used to create magic. A large amount of literature has been published on the topic.

Film Studies

Magic and cinema have a lot in common in that they both rely on deception. Magicians, such as Georges Méliès, and Charles Pathé, were some of the first film exhibitors, performers and producers. Their efforts started the development of special effects as a narrative device. The literature in the genre reviews what role magicians played in the spread of cinema and how they responded to its popularity.

Gender Studies

Magic is one of the few male-dominated performance arts. Less than five percent of people actively involved in theatrical magic are women. In other performance arts, more than one-third of performers are female. Gender studies explore the possible reasons for the imbalance between men and women in magic as a performance art.


Many magicians have an avid interest in the history of their passion, but their accounts are not considered of high value to academic historians as these writings mostly omit to place magic in a wider historical context. Until very recently, social historians had no real interest in magic. The past decade has, however, seen a steady flow of monographs critically analysing conjuring’s place in society through the ages.

Information Technology

Both software designers and magicians create virtual realities. Software designers bring their reality alive on computer displays; magicians bring theirs alive on the stage. Developing a computer interface is akin to performing a magic trick because a computer screen is a simulated reality. Several academic papers have been written that describe the similarities between magic and information technology.

Library Studies

Magicians are avid collectors of books on their craft. Some have bequeathed their collections to academic institutions, which have been described in academic journal articles.


Magicians use language to be able to share secrets with each other and also use their words wisely to enhance the deception of their audiences.


Many magic tricks are based on the principles of mathematics, which makes them a suitable vehicle for teachers. Some aspects of magic have been studied in detail by mathematicians. Some have studied card shuffling in great detail, which is important knowledge for computer software and when managing a casino.


Medical researchers have investigated the impacts of endurance stunts, performed by Harry Houdini and David Blaine, on the body.

Mental Health Care

In mental health care, patients perform magic tricks to enhance their self-esteem, while performing magic tricks by the therapist has been used to assist in diagnosis.


The use of magic tricks in nursing is mainly related to performing tricks to children to help children cope with the anxiety of hospitalisation. Clown Doctors perform their craft in many hospitals around the world.

Occupational Therapy

Performing magic tricks can help people with physical disabilities to improve their motor skills and self-confidence. Several programmes exist where magicians and occupational therapists work with patients to improve their life.

Performance Studies

The literature on performance studies is surprisingly silent on the topic of magic. This silence is emblematic of the fact that conjuring is a minor form of theatre by the establishment. The available literature provides a theatrical analysis of magic as a performance art.


It can be said that magic is simply a physical process that is not completely understood. Publications in physics discuss the relationship between magic deception and the physical sciences.


The psychology of magic is the largest field of magic studies. Psychologists try to understand why the human mind can so easily be deceived.

Social Sciences

The social sciences look at the social world of magicians—how they are organised, how they share secrets and other aspects of being a magician.